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Position-dependent expression of two related homeobox genes in developing vertebrate limbs

Naturevolume 352pages429431 (1991) | Download Citation



MANY genes that control pattern formation in insects contain a conserved homeobox region which encodes a domain involved in DNA binding1. One approach to understanding pattern formation in vertebrates is to examine the role of homeobox-containing genes in the developing limb2. Two such genes, Hox-7.1 and Hox-8.1, are expressed in distal mesoderm, but not in the proximal core, of mouse forelimb (refs 3,4, and D.R.D., manuscript in preparation). The proximodistal cartilage pattern in the chick wing is progressively determined in the distal mesoderm, which is maintained as a 'progress zone' by the overlying apical ectodermal ridge5. Indeed, proximal cells are reprogrammed to form distal structures when placed in the progress zone6 and we therefore expect that genes involved in controlling limb pattern should be activated in such grafts. We tested this requirement for Hox-7.1 and Hox-8.1 in mouse limb mesoderm placed in chick wing buds. Our results reported here indicate that both genes are rapidly activated by a signal from the apical ectoderm. These properties, taken with the DNA-binding properties of the homeodomain, strongly suggest that Hox-7.1 and Hox-8.1 have fundamental roles in limb-pattern formation.

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  1. A. Crawley and C. Tickle: Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College & Middlesex School of Medicine, Windeyer Building, Cleveland Street, London W1P 6DB, UK


  1. Developmental Genetics Group, MRC Human Genetics Unit, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, UK

    • D. R. Davidson
    • , A. Crawley
    • , R. E. Hill
    •  & C. Tickle


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